IT Employment

Should women act like men to get ahead?

Author Vickie Milazzo says women need to extol their accomplishments more in order to succeed in the business world.

A recent article in The New Yorker revealed that only 7 percent of women negotiate their salaries up front when entering a new position...compared to 57 percent of men. A new study conducted by researchers from several business schools, including Columbia University Business School, suggests that one of the reasons for the shortage of women in high-level corporate positions is that they just don't exaggerate their accomplishments enough.

"The study indicates that men tend to exaggerate their accomplishments more than women do, and thus they gain an edge when competing for corporate positions," says Vickie Milazzo, author of the New York Times best-seller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. "That doesn't mean men lie during job interviews or performance reviews -- but it does mean they exhibit a lot more confidence in workplace situations. They're not afraid to sing their own praises."

The same author claims that career women go too far in the other direction: They underestimate the accomplishments they do have.

"To match the success men can have in the business world, women need to be comfortable with talking about their achievements," says Milazzo. "It's not about lying or over exaggerating. It's about ultra positioning. Clearly, we females need to take a page from the male playbook and make sure that we're getting the recognition and credit we've earned."

The fact is, men or women who know how to position themselves and market themselves are more successful. Gender lines aside, I also think that it proves a point that, I think, we've all seen in action: In a good many corporate environments, sometimes sheer nerve and gall will get you further than talent. And the people with the real talent, if they don't sell it, often go unnoticed as they competently go about doing their jobs.

So what do you guys think? Am I just a Negative Nellie?

Edited to add: When I wrote this blog I intentionally stayed away from the inevitably incendiary point that when women "act like men" they are often perceived as harpies. The same behavior in men is interpreted as being assertive or strong. I thought that if I had mentioned that, I would be pummeled with comments calling me a paranoid man-hater. However, a gentleman in the discussion following the blog soon made my point without my having to do so when he said: "Personally I don't like it when women are too "manly." Men and women are created equal, not identical. Men have strong points and women have theirs. I think it's best to play to your strengths, and to be yourself, instead of being a baracuda!"

And I rest my case.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

24 comments
FemmedeGeek
FemmedeGeek

First of all, no woman should ever "act like a man" to get ahead. Right there you are agreeing with the mentality that you have to be a man to even be considered for whatever "ahead" might look like for you professionally. Secondly, I work for an IT company, and I am the only female engineer. Men are all the time "tooting their own horn" for accomplishments, however, when a female did the same thing, it was viewed as boastful and bragging. Needless to say, acting like a man back-fired. While I agree that being a female in a predominately male world is a challenge, never will I reduce my passion and drive for what I do or the style in which I do it and play "man" to get ahead. If you really want to see a change, be the change. Otherwise, don't complain when things don't go your way.

RayJeff
RayJeff

I've just scanned several of the postings, but I wanted to get my thoughts out first and then go back through and read fully. From my experience and from the experience of some of my colleagues, the consensus would be that women shouldn't act like men. The reason why? Women get it all wrong. It should be that women should act like themselves, as a person and not a gender. And I'm not saying this because I'm being idealistic ot have my head in the sky. I'm sating it in a practical sense. Not all women in IT or in the working world in general don't try to act like men. The question should be "Should women lie, cheat, and be fake to get ahead?". This is what men do as well. To make the question a gender question downplays the entire argument.It amazes me that some women feel and think that they have to act like men to get ahead. It assumes that all men act alike when it comes to getting ahead in a job, and it's simply not true. And what's really interesting to me is that some women do the same things as some men do-lie,cheat, pretend to be something they aren't (knowledgeable, experienced, etc), etc, but do it to a much extensive degree and are more dramatic about it. And more often than not, it's at the expense of a co-worker/colleague who isn't like them. What's so amazing is that these women pull the ruse off. They are totally believable to the people above them; But, to the people below the,. so transparent. Toni, for you and the other women who may read this article, here's a secret. It's just as hard for some men to be able to make it up the ladder as well. YES!!!! It is so true. For most men, when they climn the ladder, they want to go all the way/ For most women, they only want to go to a certain upper rung...and stop. While men and women approach the ladder different, there is one thing they both have in common: they will try their best to keep anyone else from coming up along with them or to go higher than they are. While some men do this in a very directly obvious way, women are more directly or indirectly coy. The ol smoking mirror routine and misdirection. I read the entire comment that Toni referenced in the last paragraph of the article. I agree with it, as I agree with a couple of those comments that say the same thing. But Toni, because you intentionally did not want to face the fire, to me it downplays your entire article and the question you asked. It begs to ask to why you would even write the article in the first place? It's like giving women a free pass to not really get into the meat of the question.

MidwestITLady
MidwestITLady

I'm a female who's been in IT for over 25 years. I have often been the only female in a meeting, conference session, IT sub-department, project team, etc. There's no doubt in my mind that I've to pick up male traits to be taken seriously and successful and in this field (especially earlier in my career). You learn to stand up for yourself and not to be afraid of a little workplace debate or confrontation. The good news is that I can say I've seen improvement in the last 10 years... more women in the field, more acceptance of gender differences, etc. Although I would still recommend that any woman who wants to get ahead must be comfortable being assertive (when called for) and confident. That doesn't mean they need to act like men, but it may push some comfort zones a little.

random2010
random2010

Seems to be a bit of stereotyping and generalisation about men's behaviour in this article. Still it did teach me a questionable phrase..."ultra positioning". Really? e.g. 'No I wasnt lying boss, I was just ultra positioning'

Htalk
Htalk

If men acted more like women in this regard, then both genders could gain promotions by way of peer acclaim and honest self-reporting. I've found people "tooting their own horn" are often being disingenuous. That behavior shouldn't be viewed as a sign of capability.

Goober Bob
Goober Bob

Useless info/article - women can act like men all they want, but they are still women.

schmidtd
schmidtd

Sometimes the same traits? Of course we all want good traits that advance us, not exactly the same thing as acting like someone else. It just might be the wrong question from the get go. Of course you have to know the correct way to show your organization why it needs you, why it won't be happy without out you and ask for fair compensation. It could be a skill women need to learn more than men. However you always have to pull it off in a way that fits you. We can learn from each other, but acting like someone else is tricky, especially for an adult with supposedly a fully developed personality.

drdrf
drdrf

I think this is not just a problem for women, but for anyone who is either not assertive by nature, or has been raised to believe in being modest. Sadly, that doesn't count for much today. Yes, the majority of upper level management is male, and yes, a lot of them probably got there by beating their own drum (maybe what we all need is drum lessons!). I'm guessing this is not innate, but a matter of socialization, and I suspect this will be less and less of a problem in the future. (I'm sort of retired now, and really happy not to have to report to management any more - I was never good at beating my own drum, either in one-on-one meetings, group meetings or annual performance reviews. In my last year or so working, I actually did try to imagine I was writing ad copy to sell my skills, but it didn't work terribly well. Thank heavens I'm not in marketing. I'd be a complete failure.)

alv002
alv002

Good points and very true. I have been told by senior leaders to promote my accomplishments more.

rgalligher
rgalligher

Very good article. I work in a male dominated profession but I see that as an accomplishment that also comes with challenges. I've observed how men act and their body postures in meetings and have observed the women and often see a difference. As women we can learn a lot from successful men, including negotiating pay. This is something that I have never been afraid to do and have never been turned down. Had I been, it wouldn't have been looked at negatively - in other words not because I'm a woman but because of some other reason. It never hurts to ask. Men and women are different. A woman can be strong and professional without having to resort to being a "_itch" (excuse my language) which is an opposite extreme that some women think is ok. I don't. As previously stated, both men and women should be professional. One can be strong without being offensive. But with that said, that strength comes with confidence.

Dukhalion
Dukhalion

Women have many advantages to men in the workplace. Beginning from "Can You help me with this because You are sooo much better than me at it, (wink, wink)." to "Boohoo, everybody is against me", to name a few. A man could never get away with anything like that, particularly if a woman is the counterpart. Seriously though "men or women who know how to position themselves" are usually the few men or women who have the luxury of accepting or rejecting the offer. Since women are more "teamplayers" they don't like to throw challenges the way men do (and have had to since childhood). When I employ people I want to employ women AND men, not a bunch of identical robots.

jlippens
jlippens

"However, a gentleman in the discussion following the blog soon made my point without my having to do so when he said: ???Personally I don???t like it when women are too ???manly.??? Men and women are created equal, not identical. Men have strong points and women have theirs. I think it???s best to play to your strengths, and to be yourself, instead of being a baracuda!???" In other words, you're a woman, act like one and know your place. My place is where I WANT to be. The statement of "men and women are created equal, not indentical" is a ploy to pull the reader's attention off the fact the commenter wants to continue to separate the sexes. Working in a male dominated world, being called a "harpie" is the least of the jabs that have been sent to me. However, instead of being insulted, I have made it known that each and every name I have been called is fought for and earned. I make sure they understand to put Ms. in front of it and spell with capital letters. If this indeed makes me a "barracuda", then so be it.

TechrepLath
TechrepLath

I don't accept that when I started working and was equally hesitant to sing my own praises that I wasn't "acting like a man". But I do agree that I was forced to change the way I approached my yearly performance reviews. I am a firm believer that true leader give more credit than they take, and that's all fine and dandy for day-to-day management, but when it comes to performance reviews you have to flip the switch and start taking some credit. Is that "acting like a man"? I resent the term. But I do accept the thought that certain ways of interacting are required to get ahead.

msatterwhitejr
msatterwhitejr

I think so. You cannot demand to be seen as being equal if you do not do what men have done for centuries. You got to be aggressive and not passive. You cannot demand respect and also be treated like a woman. That is a mix message.

bigjude
bigjude

That was the year when Peter B., who was subordinate to me, got a better company car. Like many good middle management female executives, I didn't much care about one-upping people with status symbols. My car was a respectable model, brand new with unlimited free petrol and I was perfectly happy with that.. But Peter had his eye on better things. So once-monthly, he went to the (male) CEO with leaflets about his car of choice and how it would be better value for the company. Once monthly, he was knocked back and every time the CEO laughed. Peter took this with good humour and returned with the same request the following month. He was laughed at every month but on the eighth one, got the car of his dreams. After that I started studying successful male behaviour patterns and quickly found those that worked, whichever your gender, as long as the boss was male. (They certainly don't work woman to woman but there weren't many female corporate bosses in those days.) The male approach also works well in serious politics. Hilary Clinton is a good example (except when she's having a bad day.) However, one of the problems for a female in using male behaviour to advance her situation, is that so many of the things she needs to do are just so boring. In politics there'd be much more fun in just being Sarah Palin rather than trying to be Mitt Romney or (imagine it) Newt Gingrich. And imagine trying to behave like Barak Obama if you were going through the menopause?

mark16_15
mark16_15

Women should not act like men, they should act like business professionals, as should men.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I'm speechless. Kind of. Really, I just don't know where to start. Which is not imply that there's something 'wrong' with the article...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Men and women acting like men could have had a quiet chuckle while reading....

sam.carrot1
sam.carrot1

Lol. This is a topic so many people at work talk about! Personally I don't like it when women are too "manly". Men aand women are created equal, not identical. Men have strong points and women have theirs. I think it's best to play to your strengths, and to be yourself, instead of being a baracuda! And unless you're an intensely dislikeable person people will respect that and appreciate it. And I'm sure you'll be happier.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I agree and I don't really like the "women" or "men" articles. This adds to the stereotype of a particular gender and the advice probably applies to both genders with a particular trait. Bill

Keighlar
Keighlar

is simply the truth. I am a woman and I take no offense at that. Political correctness has gotten us all so turned around and defensive that we can't even admit to common sense truth. Maybe someday we'll all be androgynous cyber-organisms, but until then... men and women are created equal, but not identical.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

I was going to say in this blog that when women "act like men" they get a reputation for being a harpy or baracuda, whereas men are just seen as strong or assertive. I didn't say that because I wasn't in the mood to deal with all the comments telling me I'm paranoid. So thanks for bringing the topic up.

sboverie
sboverie

It helps to define what is meant by "Get a head". This is not the same as being successful and it is more to the problem of the glass ceiling. There is also the competence issue to go along with climbing the corporate ladder, the Peter Principle is that an individual will rise to the level of their incompetence and stay there. If getting ahead means joining the senior management club then that takes a combination of ability, ambition and aggressiveness. Another factor would be activism, actions that promote the company and gain notice. Most women will fit reasonably well within the combination of ability and ambition but it is the aggressiveness that is difficult for women to give or take. Acting aggressive is seen as a good quality for men but not so much for women. Some women curse and swear to overcome the gender gap, this works for some but not for others. The best thing to do is to develop a thick hide and ignore the stings and perceived affronts; this goes for anybody. Keep emotions under control but don't repress them; emotionally charged communication tends to undermine your position but a heart felt positive feeling can motivate others. The strangest interview question I ever got was "Are you comfortable with having a woman as a boss?" I do not really care who is in charge as long as policies and communication is clear.

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